Thursday, 25 August 2011


Thursday, 25 August 2011

Hot on the heels of their supermarket sitcom Trollied comes Mount Pleasant, confirming Sky believe warm northern charm and familiar settings are key to attracting big audiences. There's little we haven't seen before in this middle-class suburban comedy: a temptress neighbour, an eccentric dad, a dippy work colleague, an inattentive boyfriend, the unlikely chick magnet husband—name your cliché, it's probably here.

But while there wasn't anything that felt original and edgy, it was efficiently done and promptly paced, telling a story that managed to introduce a large number of characters with economical skill. As first episode's go, I was impressed by how writer Sarah Hooper managed everything, in a show that feels designed for maximum Middle England appeal with its bubbly cast, good production values, and idyllic setting.

The main cast round out thus: overprotective recruitment consultant Lisa (ex-Coronation Street's Sally Lindsay), who's married to young-at-heart plumber Dan (Daniel Ryan); Lisa's fussy mum Sue (Pauline Collins), who's married to eccentric Barry (Bobby Ball); Lisa's best friend/boss Shelley (ex-Coronation Street's Angela Griffin), who's married to gambler Greg (Adrian Bower); cougar neighbour Bianca (Cutting It's Sian Reeves), who's set her sights on Dan; recently-widowed frumpy friend Kate (Liza Tarbuck); and bimbo work pal Denise (Ainsley Howard), who's infatuated with their boss Fergus (Peep Show's Neil Fitzmaurice). Even the casting has a snug coziness to it, with nostalgic faces like Shirley Valentine's Collins and old-school comedian Ball representing the older generation, and two actresses who found fame in popular soaps as leads.

Mount Pleasant is a place where neighbourhoods look like they were built last week (maybe for a Barrett residential advert), the streets are full of kids riding bikes, and the inside of each deceptively gigantic house are an interior designer's dream. Given the fact creator Hooper was involved with Shameless, I think it's safe to say this is her middle-class riposte to that Channel 4 hit: a cul-de-sac where people's days revolve around taking baths with scented candles, petty marital arguments, pub lunches, playing fruit machines, and dopey husbands caught staring at other women's pert bottoms. Not drinking, fighting, thieving, sex and drugs.

I found it tough to dislike this show, despite the fact it was more run of the mill drama than hilarious comedy, such was the quality of its characters. Worthwhile comedy-drama doesn't have to be cutting-edge or risqué, of course. Mount Pleasant is agreeable fun of limited ambition (like a toothless Desperate Housewives) but there's always potential in shows that revolve around friends, family and neighbours. I grew up watching inoffensive British comedy/drama that didn't really want to push boundaries, and there's nothing wrong with them provided they're done well. It's sometimes just nice to luxuriate in the TV equivalent of a hot, soapy bath. Hopefully this show will maintain the right temperature, and build on this first confident but middle-of-the-road hour.

written by Sarah Hooper / directed by Dewi Humphreys / 24 August 2011 / Sky1